|09-12-2001, 10:34 AM||#1|
Join Date: Jul 2001
Man, wife rejected for adoption on wheelchair bias
Man, wife blame empty nest on wheelchair bias
By Howard Breuer
MOORPARK -- A Moorpark woman and her husband have sued Pasadena-based Holy Family adoption services, saying the agency rejected their application solely because the prospective mother is disabled.
"They never asked me a question about what is your disability, what can you do and what can't you do," said Laura Goldberg, 35, who has multiple sclerosis but cares for her home and herself without assistance.
The Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees the disabled equal access to jobs, public buildings and housing, officials say. But they say adoption agencies can exclude a disabled applicant from adopting a specific child after reviewing the case and determining that the disability poses problems for the child.
On the other hand, officials say the agencies can't broadly ban a couple from any adoption simply because one of the pair is disabled. Goldberg says that's exactly what the Holy Family agency did to her and her husband, Neil, even after she obtained a doctor's clearance and certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
She said the agency's director, Debra Richardson, came to her home Oct. 20 last year and informed her that the couple's application to adopt a child 2 to 5 years old was being rejected because Goldberg is disabled.
But an attorney for the 52-year-old agency, which also has offices in Thousand Oaks, San Bernardino and Santa Ana, said the Goldbergs weren't rejected.
"They chose not to proceed with the adoption process because they were not happy with having to answer some of the questions," said Pasadena attorney Rosa Cumare.
The Goldbergs deny the allegation.
Cumare said the agency has placed children with disabled parents. However, she indicated that agency officials are apprehensive about a prospective parent who needs to use a wheelchair.
"We're not talking about a job. We're talking about entrusting little children to your care," Cumare said. "It's a very unusual situation for someone who is in a wheelchair to try to adopt a child through our program."
She said agency workers must worry about whether a parent can keep a child safe -- a valid issue under a recent test case.
In 1998, a U.S. District Court judge in New York dismissed a discrimination lawsuit that Kimberly Adams, who is blind, filed against the Monroe County Department of Social Services in Rochester, N.Y., for rejecting her application to adopt a 4-year-old boy.
The court ruled that there was no unlawful discrimination in the agency's determination that it would not be in the best interests of the child -- or any other child available at the time -- to be placed in Adams' home because of the risk of physical harm.
The judge stated that the agency's role "was not to find a child for plaintiff's home, but the opposite: to find suitable homes for children."
However, the judge also underscored the agency's claim that it had determined only that Adams was unsuitable to adopt specific children available at the time.
Despite the Adams case, Dan Tokaji, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said Holy Family violated state and federal anti-discrimination laws if it determined that the Goldbergs, because of Laura Goldberg's disability, were unfit to adopt any children.
"It's hard to see why an agency would believe that being in a wheelchair would disqualify or even count as a strike against anyone's being a good parent," Tokaji said. "I'm certainly concerned and very troubled by these allegations. This ought not be happening in the 21st century."
The Goldbergs' lawsuit, recently filed in Pasadena Superior Court against Holy Family and Richardson, claims unlawful disability discrimination, unfair business practices and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Neil Goldberg, 39, a firearms-training officer for the Los Angeles Police Department, said he and his wife set out to adopt several years ago after they learned Laura couldn't conceive.
They bought a three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,600-square-foot house near Moorpark College because it was around the corner from an elementary school -- Campus Canyon School -- in an area that seemed like a good environment for a child. They decorated and furnished a bedroom as a nursery and started screening adoption services.
"We want children because we absolutely love children, and we would be great parents," Laura Goldberg said. She added that she doesn't know whether her condition might deteriorate -- she had a stem cell transplant earlier this year to slow the disease's progression -- but life is generally full of unknowns.
"Anyone could adopt and get a terminal disease or get in an accident," she added. "The difference is my disease is right here in your face. But I really wasn't concerned, and my neurologist, who's been with me for 12 to 13 years, wasn't concerned."
The Goldbergs got deep into the application process with Holy Family, paid their fees and were awaiting word on when Laura could start attending a mandatory parenting class.
When Richardson rejected them the same evening that the class started, "It was like being hit with a sledge hammer," Neil Goldberg said.
He said he and his wife are too heartbroken and dejected to approach another adoption agency. They redecorated the intended nursery, gave away some of the furniture and painted other pieces black.
Laura Goldberg said she keeps the bedroom door closed so she doesn't have to look inside. She also can't bear to visit friends with small children or watch TV commercials with babies.
"It was very upsetting," she said.
Their attorney, Lawrence J. Hanna of Van Nuys, said he hopes the agency settles the lawsuit and continues working with the Goldbergs.
"Sometimes people's hearts are clouded by discrimination," said Hanna, who also complained to the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.
"It is sad to see this," Hanna added. "If they had just looked at this couple and seen how great they could be as parents, this wouldn't be going on."
|09-12-2001, 06:37 PM||#2|
Join Date: Jul 2001
Think about this
Many of us in wheelchairs have or want to have children. If they are saying that she is not able to take care or adopt a child because of her disability it brings up a question in my mind.
Don't we make good parents because we have a disability?
I was already disabled when I had my son and I have raised a daughter(adopted) and did the best to teach them what I believe is necessary in life. Does this mean that I should never have had the right to keep my own child then? I have raised them on my own, been father and mother to both of them. Am I missing something here?
On another occassion I had posted my thoughts as to how I believe we can be good parents even with a disability. Have always believed the most important thing you can give a child is love, support, an education and most of all be an example to them of what we teach them. Still believe that even if I can't run or walk, I can share time with them and give them a part of my life and love.
Somehow I feel that an action like this does not have a leg to stand on. It is discriminating and ignorant.
|09-13-2001, 07:05 AM||#3|
Join Date: Aug 2001
I just have to say..
I just have to say that I think disabled parents make better parents. We can teach our children that everyone is equal. we can teach our children not to just " be nice to the handicap person" but that we are people too and can do most things that others can.
I was injured when my newborn was 10 DAYS old. She is 8 months now. and happier than my 4 yr old was at her age. Could it be a better understanding of life and its importance??